Thursday, May 23, 2024

Stupidity and Totalitarianism

Fascists are stupid and cruel - and that is why they are doomed to eventual failure.

I read this comment on Reddit, which was made in response to another comment that fascists are basically dumb and cruel.  I wish I had the link.  I copied the text and when I went back later to find the source it was *poof* gone.  Anyway, I thought this was an interesting analysis:
This right here is something I think more folks should keep in mind.

I think a lot of folks in countries that haven't been exposed directly to real destruction mostly understand dictators from fiction (either fictional villains or highly dramaticized/fictionalized accounts of real dictators), and fiction has a tendency to give way too much credit to the intelligence of evil dictators.

Like, the Nazis in popular portrayal were evil, but were also [portrayed as] ruthlessly efficient and organized and competent...but that was not the case. The Nazis were hilariously corrupt (Hitler was secretly paying bribes to tons of people from the public treasury to buy their loyalty) and cripplingly stupid (they refused to engage with entire branches of science for ideological reasons and wasted countless resources on the most ridiculous weapons and pet projects because Hitler came up with them).

They weren't just horrible because they were evil towards certain people...they were horrible because they were evil and incredibly wasteful and incompetent and left even the people they supposedly liked worse off. There was absolutely no upside to them. They did a bunch of cruel and horrible things for stupid and moronic reasons...and just left the world worse in every way.

And this is crucial as we head into a world where these sorts of dictatorial movements are becoming more popular. A lot of people kind of get off on being aligned with the "bad guys", because they imagine that they will become part of this coldly ruthless organization that, while it is brutal to enemies, it will ultimately make society more orderly and efficiently or whatever, and they fancy themselves as "stronger" because they're willing to make the hard choice to sacrifice others for the greater good.

But in reality, dictators are pretty much entirely idiots at everything except hanging onto power. And they end up making society way less orderly, efficient, or pleasant for anyone.

The very structure of a dictatorship means that the people who question or challenge the dictator end up dead, so there isn't anybody to stop the dictator from ordering all kinds of stupid and even impossible things. And a lot of dictators get into power because they're willing to make stupid choices that ultimately make everything worse and that most people wouldn't choose because it's counter productive. They are willing to destroy their own home to rule it.

Dictators generally aren't "evil geniuses" -- that is a concept people seem fascinated with and thus is popular in fiction, but like many things in fiction it doesn't generally happen in reality. Dictators are evil idiots who kill everyone who tries to correct them and over time surround themselves with murderous yes men who will hollow out their society until it either collapses or gets taken over by someone else, and they invariably leave societies poorer and more miserable than they were in the first place.

And the sooner people stop seeing this sort of idiocy as "strength", the better.

I thought this was an interesting take, as a lot of people think Mussolini "made the trains run on time!"  But in fact, he didn't.  In fact, other than win small wars against basically unarmed opposition, he didn't do much except turn Italy into ruin.

People claim dictators improved the economy - in an era where economies were recovering from great recessions and even a depression.  "Hitler built the Autobahns and put Germans back to work!" they say.  But highways would have been built with or without Hitler and none of it was his vision or idea. In fact, the idea originated in the predecessor (and Democratic) Weimar Republic.

You go down the list and you see the same pattern again and again.  Stalin's amateur efforts at industrialization and collectivism produced low-quality goods and starved millions of peasants. Mao followed suit, killing even more.  The Khmer Rouge slaughtered nearly 1/3 of the population because one man had a crazy idea about emptying cities and sending everyone to the country to farm.

In fact, there is no track record of a dictator making things better or making wise decisions.  The "wise old king" of fairy tales simply doesn't exist.  When you have absolute power and everyone lives in fear of you, no one is there to say "uh, that sounds like a really bad idea!"

The only thing consistent across various dictatorships is the cruelty, the slaughter, the suffering, and the secret police.  But even that is inefficient, as innocents are tortured and killed while insurgencies still manage to flourish.  The "pick me!" people who think they will be on the good side of the dictator and reap huge rewards are often the first put before the firing squad, as they are viewed as potential rivals or conspirators.

Just look at all the people Trump has thrown under the bus - once his loyal acolytes, and now, yesterday's news.

Corruption is the other constant with dictatorships.  We see this today in Russia, where oligarchs loot the system and we discover that Russia has basically a cardboard army.  Where did all the money go, that was supposed to re-arm Russia?  Into the hands of the oligarchs.

We have an election this year, and one candidate - Trump - promises to make himself dictator-for-life and eliminate his enemies.  And a substantial number of people think this is a swell idea, too.  Sadly for them, again, it is likely they will be the first put before the firing squad, or sent out as cannon fodder, or told to work long hours for low wages, or see their homes and livelihood destroyed. Likely all of the above.

The track record of dictators is consistently dismal - there are no "good" dictators in history.  Not a single one.

So why do people pine for authoritarianism?  Well, they are stupid, to be sure.  They believe that complex problems can be solved with simple solutions.  Worldwide migration due to war, famine, and economic hardship?  Build a wall!  That'll keep 'em out!  It didn't work for China or Hadrian, it isn't working on our Southern border, either.  Complex problems require complex solutions - but you lose the average stupid voter once you try to explain things.  Simple slogans, chanted endlessly (a favorite of the far-left, by the way - another contingent of the stupid voter) are far easier to get across to the dumb.

This, of course, is assuming the "problems" are real and not hyped or imagined.  Postwar Germany after WWI was in economic free-fall and the punishing terms of the Versailles treaty didn't help matters any.  But oddly enough, the Nazis rose to power during a period when the economy was slowly recovering.  People were tired of recession, and the Nazis amplified each economic hardship to make them seem worse than they were.  They engaged in street violence and then promised to put a stop to it - if put into power.

And of course, they had scapegoats - the other consistent aspect of dictators.  Nearly every Latin American or Middle-East dictator burns an effigy of Uncle Sam and tells their followers that the mean old USA is the reason their economy is in tatters.  Castro - and his successors - blame the US embargo for the failure of Communism in their country.  Yet, there is no embargo with Canada, Europe, or most of the rest of the world.  So why does an embargo with one country wreck their economy?  The short answer is, it hasn't, communism has.  But one way to stay in power is to blame your failures on a scapegoat.

It could be another country or a race or a religion or whatever.  Today in America, the far-right is blaming all the country's woes (such as they are, with the economy booming and America really the only remaining super-power) on anyone who isn't white, Christian, and heterosexual.  We are told that we need to "take back" our country from those icky "race" people and go back to the good old days of polio and racism.

You go first.

The reality is, of course, that things are hardly as bad as either the far-left or far-right make it out to be.  Certainly whatever "problems" we have in this country can be solved without having to destroy our Democracy.

But then again, it seems every few decades, we forget the lessons of the past and people - stupid people - start to think, "Say, maybe Communism or Nazism wasn't such a bad idea after all!"

Like I said, they are stupid people.